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Can you teach a child a sense of beat/rythm?


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Well, I've been telling my son when he practices, that he doesn't

necessarily have to count but to feel the beat within the music.

 For example, he tends to cut the long half or whole notes tad

bit too short all the time, or doesn't give enough rest between the

notes when it is called for.  How do you teach a child a

consistency in beat and the sense of rhythm?  Is there any

trick that you use when you play?  Well, the tapping the foot

doesn't work.  His teacher doesn't like it and he can't manage

to tap and play at the same time.

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Yes, Erika. We do have a metronome. And I am guilty of not reinforcing to use it consistently. But he seems to get thrown off when there is a lot of retardando and accelando and in frustration, he turns it off. Still within retardando and accelando, I think the rhythm has to be there. And I want him to understand it.

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"How do you teach a child a consistency in beat and the sense of rhythm? Is there any trick that you use when you play?"


You need to immerse him in rhythm surreptitiously in his other day-to-day activities outside of playing the violin and his overall sense of meter will improve.

Try integrating spelling with rhythm. Make a game of quizzing him on words he cannot yet spell, and get him to memorize the words by spelling out the letters in an improvised rhythmic manner. You can subliminally induce a sense of rhythm without him even knowing it. The prospect of him spending his formative years running around the house going O - X - Y anda G - E - N might appear particularly ominous at first, but I think it is a reasonable sacrifice.

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He is eleven. Yes, he tends to rush notes and he likes to play fast. His teacher and I always tell him that messy-fast is not what he wants. I think what happens sometimes is (being young and likes to rush is one thing) that after those long notes (half or whole notes) when he knows there are bunch of sixteenth notes waiting or when the quick bow change is ahead, he tends to rush thinking he might come in too late. In actuality, he is coming in too early. GMM22, I will try your suggestion that will kill two birds in one stone! Funny thing is when he sings the piece he plays, he sings fine, no short notes. Is it doable for his age to sing in his head while playing violin?

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Sing the music, then play it.

Wiggle the toes rather than tapping the foot, so the teacher/conductor won't see it.

Play some rhythmic music, standing, and dance while playing. Much of this stuff is based on dance anyway. (Most 11 y.o. boys will not go for this, I suspect).

Duets. Playing with someone who has the beat will keep him on track a lot metter than the metronome, that device of torture.

Get a sticker made for his violin: Sempre Rubato.

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Bob A, he might go for dance while playing. (Although I'm terrified he will bump into the wall and break his violin) I wish there were someone who can play with him duets. That is absolutely a wonderful idea. We just moved to a new city, so I haven't met many people yet, but I will definitely look for someone who likes to play with him.

And forgive my ignorace, but what does "Sempre Rubato" mean?

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Rubato=small variations in note values, not indicated in the music as written. The amount of variation is variable and subject to the whim of the player and his interpretation of the music. Sometimes the player's interpretation is strongly overridden by teachers, conductors, critics and the like.

My granddaughter's playing is an example of sempre rubato; she has internalised the process, not unlike your son.

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I come from the fiddling side of things, so your mileage might vary. We do play for dances, where a good sense of rhythm is something we strive for.

I have my fiddle students walk in time while they play, sort of a fiddling marching band practice. It is amazing how difficult this is for people who can even play a bit. If there's not enough room, I have them march in place. From there, you can go into sort of a soft-shoe routine, a parlor trick and definitely not something you can do in an orchestra setting, but it can develop a better sense of rhythm.

For some of my young students, getting them to march around to a tune seems to help. It is good to get a tunes that have a very definite beat. Just getting the concept into their head doing this. Once they can do that fairly successfully, I then have them just try to move the bow with the beat, on open strings.

It takes some time, and I try to make it fun. The metronome is a very good tool, I use it all the time, but can be a bit intimidating to a new student.


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KenPolland, I asked my son to march in place while he played his violin. I was pretty impressed! He managed to keep on marching without messing up, and that kept him in beat. I think I'll ask him to keep on doing it until he can internalize it. String-along, would be nice if I can afford to provide the drum or percussion lessons for my son, but right now, it is not possible. Is there any exercises he did at home for percussion?

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My son used a book (sorry can't remember the name or publisher I'll try to remember to look it up) which had pages of 4 measure rhythms to be played 2 times . These were grouped in a logical way. They were ment to be played on a snare drum but a telephone book worked for us!

ie //1/8 1/8 1/4 1/4 1/4 // 1/8 1/8 1/4 1/4 1/4 // 1/8 1/8 1/4 1/4 1/4 // 1/8 1/8 1/4 1/4 1/4 //

Then// 1/4 1/4 1/8 1/8 1/4 // 1/4 1/4 1/8 1/8 1/4 // 1/4 1/4 1/8 1/8 1/4 // 1/4 1/4 1/8 1/8 1/4//

There would be a whole page of 1/4 and 1/8 combo's; then an etude combining the combo's.

The next page might have a 1/2 note theme, or a whole page of dotted 1/4 combo's. (very boring eh?)

By the end of the book they were VERY complicated and longer exersizes.

Anyway, The repetion and variations worked wonders. I suggest looking for such a book in your local music school.

Perhaps his school music teacher can help you?

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Thanks, Allegro and String-along, for the suggestion. I will look for a book like that. Meanwhile, I guess I can ask him to tap or clap for the piece he is learning right now for the rhythm before he plays. I used to be able to help with music reading, but now the pieces he plays are getting very complicated like 32nd notes/8th notes combo and triplets that doesn't seem to fit in a measure. I get lost. I try to use metronome to figure it out, but doesn't help much. I think I am going to take time to learn myself would be fun!

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It is hard for some students to tap and play at the same time

because tapping is just another coordination that has to be added

to an already tricky  the left and right hand coordination.

 A metronome can help, but I find that sometimes my students

find it difficult to listen for the metronome clicking and to

listen to their notes at the same time.  I will often tap

on the chair my students sit on, that way they really feel the

beat.  Most of the time that works for them.

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Does his teacher know that he is having problems with rhythm? Is he giving him any learning strategies - i.e. exercises or other ways of practising? What if it's not about rhythm as much as it is in applying it to the piece while playing and getting all the elements in? Is his teacher telling him how to structure his practice, acquiring the piece in stages, so that he knows how to approach a more complicated piece?

For example, I got some advice a few years ago that really helped my approach to pieces. First this person looked at the music for the rhythm - he chanted or tapped it, until he got it right. Then came the notes. The music was played blandly at first, with clean even bowing and no dynamics. Intonation and rhythm were the first priorities. Then the other things started to come in: dynamics, expression. The general idea is that you cannot master everything at once. This is one way of getting control of each element. Are there other ways of approaching a piece that might help?

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I used to be able to help with music reading, but now the pieces he plays are getting very complicated like 32nd notes/8th notes combo and triplets that doesn't seem to fit in a measure

The different note values are sort of like one thing nested inside the larger thing, and come in packages of beats. In trying to get a handle on them in the past I even resorted to drawing out their relationships until I started to get the picture. Is your son taking basic theory, by the way? I found that writing out the note values and doing those simple exercises visually with pencil and paper gave me a much better understanding when I was playing the instrument.

To get a handle on these notes that don't seem to fit in a measure take them apart, and fit them into groups of beats. Do that with pencil and paper if you have to. Treat each beat separately if you're stuck and then put them together. for example:

4/4 time signature - 4 beats to a measure:

[ (1/8 --- 1/8---) (1/4 ----------------) (1/8 --- ,1/16 1/16) (triplets that fit into this beat) ]

---------1----------------2 ------------------- 3--------------------- 4 ------------------

(dashes because this program doesn't seem to recognize spaces)

The distance between each of these beats is exactly the same. The notes inside them subdivide. If you get stuck with beat # 3, for example, figure it out separately. The 1/8 would take up exactly half of beat # 3. The 1/16 fit two into the other half. Or you can imagine that the 1/8 is as long as two of the 1/16 with four of them fitting into that beat, except that you are slurring the first two together to create the 1/8. Keep playing with it until you get a sense of that beat in that measure.

The triplets in the fourth beat would fit very evenly into that beat and have a feeling of being slightly faster. To suddenly go into triplets is tricky. Have your beat going evenly and then try to fit three notes into that beat until you have the sense of triplets.

Then when you have the tricky parts of that measure worked out, you can start putting all the beats together ......... That is to say, supposing that you're really stuck somewhere.

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